A week after three police officers who fatally shot 23 year-old Sean Bell were cleared of all charges, the Reverend Al Sharpton will lead a citywide “pray-in” on Wednesday (May 7) at six locations around New York City.
Along with Sean Bell’s fiancée Nicole Paultre Bell, fellow shooting victims Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield, and other community and religious leaders, Sharpton and his National Action Network will stage an act of civil disobedience tomorrow, calling upon the United States Department of Justice to intervene in the criminal trial of Sean Bell.
The demonstration, which will take place in six different locations across Manhattan and Brooklyn, will gather participants to get down on their knees in prayer. Rev. Sharpton advises that all demonstrators should be prepared to go to jail to protest the acquittals of the three detectives.
“If you are not going to lock up the guilty in this town, then I guess you’ll have to lock up the innocent,” Sharpton said in a statement.
As SOHH previously reported, on April 25, Queens Supreme Court Judge Arthur Cooperman found detectives Michael Oliver and Gescard Isnora not guilty of first and second-degree manslaughter charges, assault and reckless endangerment, and officer Marc Cooper innocent of a single count of reckless endangerment. The verdict sparked widespread disappointment and outrage in the city.
Sharpton, who has been advising the Bell family throughout the trial, hopes the acts of civil disobedience will continue until eventually a citywide dissent will be organized to shut down the entire city, later this spring.
Some reports have linked this civil disobedience act to the demonstrations that surrounded the Amadou Diallo case in 2000 – where Sharpton and others staged a 13-day protest at One Police Plaza, which eventually led to indictments. However, the Reverend points out the 50,000 protestors in the Bell case, by far exceeds any protest acts conducted during the Diallo case.
The rally for the citywide slowdown and pray-ins will begin tomorrow at 3 p.m. at the six sites listed below:
Site A: 125th Street and 3rd Avenue (led by W. Franklyn Richardson, Chairman of National Action Network)
Site B: 60th Street abd Third Avenue (Led by National Action Network senior staff)
Site C: 34th Street and Park Avenue (Led by National Action Network Senior Staff)
Site D: Varick and Houston Streets (Led by Hazel Dukes, NAACP and Labor leaders)
Site E: One Police Plaza (Led by Sharpton. Nicole Paultre Bell, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield will be at this location as well)
Site F: House of the Lord Church, Brooklyn, New York (Led by Rev. Herbert Daughtry)
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